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RehabilitationNov 17, 2021

Respiratory physios issue call to services over demand for rehab from patients with long Covid

Rehabilitation services are facing a ‘significant challenge’ in supporting people who have left hospital after receiving treatment for Covid-19 symptoms, according to three physiotherapists based in Leicester.

The view is put forward by Enya Daynes, Charlotte Gerlis and Sally Singh in a publication appearing in the December issue of the Elsevier journal, Physiotherapy (their paper was published in an online version earlier this year).

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The physios are calling on service providers to 'enhance' their capacity to provide rehab


All three authors are based at the centre of exercise and rehabilitation sciences at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Leicester Biomedical Research Centre-Respiratory, University Hospitals of Leicester. Dr Daynes and Professor Singh are also based at the department of respiratory sciences, University of Leicester.

In their editorial, the authors note that one person in four who had been admitted to hospital in the Leicester area with Covid-19 symptoms reported needing rehabilitation some time after being discharged.

The need for Covid-19 rehabilitation programmes is clear, with 25 per cent of all individuals admitted to our hospitals identifying rehabilitation needs [Enya Daynes et al]

‘The need for Covid-19 rehabilitation programmes is clear, with 25 per cent of all individuals admitted to our hospitals identifying rehabilitation needs. This presents a significant challenge for services providing rehabilitation which will continue after the pressure on acute services has eased.

‘In order to meet the needs of those with long Covid there needs to be nationwide support for the development and implementation of Covid recovery programmes.’

Rehabilitation pathway

People discharged from the trust’s hospitals from March to December last year were followed using a rehabilitation pathway, which included a phone call to identify any ongoing symptoms and rehabilitation needs. All those with a positive Covid-19 PCR test, or clinical diagnosis of Covid-19 were screened.

More than a thousand of them (1,539) were initially screened, of whom 386 (25 per cent) were eventually identified as having rehabilitation needs and were added to a waiting list.

Of the 166 individuals added to the rehab waiting list by the end of January 2021, 109 (66 per cent) accepted an appointment (some said their condition had improved or could not be contacted).

Services already 'overstretched'

The authors point out that several specialist groups and governing bodies have highlighted the need for rehabilitation, suggesting that adaptive pulmonary rehabilitation services would be best placed to meet the demands of people who fall into the 'long Covid' category. 

They continue: ‘However, current pulmonary rehabilitation services are overstretched with high demand from the chronic respiratory disease population.

 ‘Therefore there is a need to enhance capacity of such rehabilitation services to support the needs of the post Covid population.’

Though the study was supported by the NIHR, the authors note that the views expressed in the paper are not necessarily those of the institute or the Department of Health and Social Care.

To see the open access paper, titled The demand for rehabilitation following COVID-19: a call to service providers, visit: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physio.2021.05.004


Author: Ian A McMillan
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